The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) announced that Maj. Gen. Joe Vazquez, its current CEO and national commander, is stepping down effective Sept. 2. He will turn over leadership of the 57,000-member volunteer organization to its southwest commander, Col. Mark Smith.
The changing of the guard was expected as part of the organization’s three-year governance structure, and Vazquez has served as the organization’s leader since 2014. Vazquez originally joined the Georgia Wing as a cadet in 1975 and in 2016 he played a key role in the organization's seventy-fifth anniversary celebration. Vazquez complimented Smith’s leadership as a “great choice,” according to a June 19 news release announcing the change in leadership.
The organization was founded in 1941 to help protect and defend the United States. In more recent years CAP has acted as an auxiliary arm of the U.S. Air Force, and patrol members in distinctive red-white-and-blue aircraft are frequently tasked with critical search-and-rescue missions, disaster documentation, and other security functions.
CAP counts just over 24,000 cadets and just under 33,000 adults in its program, including 3,000 active pilots. The organization typically flies 60 to 75 disaster missions annually and provides aviation training, summer camps, outreach programs, and leadership for its cadet members.